David Smith hopes Great Britain’s boccia team can take inspiration from Euro 2020 at the Tokyo Paralympics later this summer.
Smith heads ParalympicsGB’s nine-strong squad announced on Wednesday for the Games, which begin next month, and is bidding to become Britain’s most decorated boccia player.
The 32-year-old, winner of an individual gold medal at Rio 2016, believes both England and Denmark, who clash at Wembley on Wednesday for a place in the Euro 2020 final, have shown team spirit is key to sporting success.
Smith told the PA news agency: “If England get to the final, that’s a good result. But they’ve got to beat Denmark first, who are also a very strong team and it just shows what that togetherness can do.
“If you go in with a purpose and have a strong togetherness – Denmark obviously had the Christian Eriksen incident and his recovery as motivation to do something special.
“England have it too and probably for us, as a boccia squad in a Paralympic sport, that’s something we’ve got to strive for as well, to get that psychology right, go in with that right mindset and then who knows what can happen.”
Boccia is a precision ball sport related to bowls and petanque and very similar to curling. It became a Paralympic sport in 1984 and includes individual, pairs and team matches.
Smith, who became the youngest British champion at the age of 14 and world champion for the first time at 18, has won team gold and bronze, plus individual gold and silver across four Paralympic Games.
He currently sits alongside the now retired Nigel Murray as Britain’s most prolific boccia medal winner but insists he does not feel under pressure as Tokyo 2020 looms.
“I’ve been there to be shot at for the past 15 years to be honest, so it’s nothing new being the top dog,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me so much now.
“If anything I feel more at ease about it now because I’ve changed my mindset the last 18 months or so. I’m not looking over my shoulder anymore.”
Smith will be joined in the squad by five returning Paralympians – Claire Taggart, brothers Jamie and Scott McCowan, Evie Edwards and Stephen McGuire.
The squad’s youngest member, 19-year-old Louis Saunders is, along with Beth Moulam and Will Hipwell, set to make his Paralympics debut in Tokyo.
Saunders said: “I’m unbelievably excited. I’ve just been working towards this for such a long time.
“We’ve got such a strong team now. I think half the team has been to two Paralympic Games and three of us going for the first time.
“So I think with that mix of experience and new energy, there’s definitely opportunities for us to get medals across all of the classifications in all events.
“I’m confident this can be one of the boccia team’s most successful Paralympics.”